An Oakland, Calif. activist took the saying “when you want something done, you have to do it yourself” to an entirely new level.

Carroll Fife, the founder of Moms4Housing, ran for a third district city council seat in the economically beleaguered city and won. 

According to SFist, Fife defeated incumbent city Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney in a landslide victory. According to her campaign website, the hyper-focused changemaker’s plan for the city is to provide safe, affordable housing to Oakland residents and reexamine police presence in the district. Fife also promised to lift community voices, ensuring that leaders developed a relationship with constituents to exercise their rights to foster a positive change.

“My goal is not only to cultivate and develop the leadership, the critical thinking skills, and the analysis but also to make the space and give the platform to the people so that they can exercise what they know to be right, to lift up their experiences,” she wrote. “Together, we can create the strategic points that will help us to victory over injustice.”

With the help of around 1,000 volunteers, Fife’s vision and acts solidified her win. The progressive pundit’s seat covers seven areas in the city, including Downtown and West Oakland, according to SFist. 

It was her own experience with homelessness that sparked Fife’s activism. She spoke with KGO-7 about why the Oakland City Council was the place for her to continue her work. 

“It’s the place where I’ve been organizing my entire adult life. I was evicted, and I was displaced from this district, and I’ve always said that I was going to come back,” Fife explained.

According to Democracy Now!, the 44-year-old advocate organized a group of homeless mothers and took over a vacant property for two months in 2019. The home, owned by Wedgewood Properties, had been empty for two years. The management company forcibly evicted the women using armed police officers, which sparked outrage in the community. After mounting pressure from the city, Wedgewood reluctantly offered to sell the property at a reasonable price through the Oakland Community Land Trust.

Her act of resistance put names and faces to the homeless population in the city. That single act was the backdrop of Moms4Housing.

In an interview with the organization, Fife explained why she opted to use such drastic measures. 

“It’s important to understand the history of civil disobedience in this country because every single right that we have today was won by people engaging and pushing on what was legal. Right,” she said. “So it’s important to not criminalize women who are trying to bring attention and justice and humanity to the masses, for everyone.”

“They are not the criminals here. The criminal system is one that allows homelessness,” she added. 

Fife also drew attention to why there were people in the area without access to affordable housing.

She said Wedgewood Properties bought the house below market value in foreclosure but was attempting to renovate it and resell it at market rates, rendering the property unaffordable to many.

“The one demand that the moms had was to negotiate with the Oakland Community Land Trust,” Fife explained. “Since day one, November 18th, the position was that the organization, Wedgewood, that purchased this home in a foreclosure sale, sit down and negotiate for the sale of the house to the land trust so it would be permanently affordable.”

Even as it appeared that Wedgewood was going to renege, Fife and the women stood firm.

“They want to make sure that Wedgewood sells it to the land trust for no more than what they purchased it for,” she detailed. “And so, if they are engaging in doing any repairs, we’re concerned that they may want to increase the sales price. And that’s just not — that’s just not tenable.”

Much of the activist’s work has been around tearing down the establishment and its policies. And although Fife is a staunch advocate for raging against the machine, she understands that fixing what’s broken is an inside job.